Characters · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Blood on the Keyboard: Writing When it Hurts

Blood on the

Okay, so that title is a *little* misleading. I’m not talking about actual blood. Unless you’re like me and tend to have random nosebleeds. Not good for your keyboard. No, the hurt I’m referring to is more emotional than physical. But how so?

You’ve no doubt come across the adage to ‘write what you know’ and likely the opposing viewpoint that this is limiting to your narrative.

However, I’m going to give you a different take on this. Write what you feel. Here’s some overshare for you: I use writing as a coping mechanism to keep my brain from talking me into killing myself. Sometimes that nastiness bleeds over into my writing. Characters suffer and suffer horribly. Mostly because they are a stand-in for myself. I won’t get into the psychology of it. My doctors are aware and even encourage it. Why?

Because it gets those emotions out of my system. It allows me some space from it to look at it rationally.

Now, I know most of you are going ‘what the flying frick Bran, this isn’t what I followed you for.’ But let me show you how this coping skill of mine can help you be a better writer; by showing you how to face those parts of yourself.

Writing What You Feel

A lot of ‘write what you know’ advice focuses on events, places, and people in your life. And yes there is a wealth of material to be gained from your experiences through life; material I highly suggest you mine and refine for use.

Writers who are intimately familiar with their subject produce more knowing, more confident and, as a result, stronger results. — Should We Write What We Know? BY BEN YAGODA 

I have worked in construction most of my life. Though that might be difficult to tell from what I write. I don’t write about construction or anything associated with it. But, I do use some of my experiences from my former job. Working outside year round in all kinds of weather, dealing with sexual harassment, watching someone die in an accident, millionaire homeowners who wouldn’t piss on me if I was on fire. But more than that, I use the emotions those experiences elicited in my writing; the exhaustion, frustration, horror, and anger to name a few.

Instead of letting those feelings sit and fester, I wrote about them. I wrote about characters dealing with the same emotions even if it wasn’t the same situation.

When you write what you feel you are looking for those instances when something really spoke to or affected you. Something that made you passionate. You don’t have to just channel negative emotions, positive experiences are just as effective. Though it helps to have some sort of distance from the event, at least in my experience. You need to be able to look at it objectively and pull out the emotions without causing yourself undo stress.

Let me show you how. Once again this is probably oversharing, but being open and honest is the main part of this process.

Three Steps to Writing What You Feel

As William Trevor once said, “There is an element of autobiography in all fiction that is pain or distress, or pleasure, is based on the author’s own.” We all write ourselves into our characters. It’s only when we start fearing that inner editor that we can end up with flat prose, cardboard characters, and a boring plot. But sometimes that inner editor is our own fear at facing something painful.

I recently started a short story. It’s to be a freebie for my street team and features a pair of side characters from The Jeweled Dagger. It was supposed to have been a quick easy write up of around 5k words. I got about 1500 in and realized the main character Séraphin was grappling with something deeply personal to me. Something I myself have not fully dealt with; reconciling my religious upbringing with my sexuality and gender identity. All progress halted. I simply couldn’t write any further without having to face my own emotions on the matter.

Step One: Take time to explore the event/situation in your mind.

(Note: some experiences are too painful to explore alone, take care of yourself first and foremost).

I spent several days thinking about the situation. I know I have a deep faith in what I was taught growing up. I also know who I am now, but the shame, resentment, and trepidation don’t just go away overnight. Séraphin faces a similar conundrum. His faith in his country or the pull to fully be himself. This lead to the next step:

Step Two: Let yourself feel.

This is probably the hardest part of the exercise, allowing yourself to face full on those emotions and accept them. It is going to hurt. I’m not too proud to admit that tears have been involved. But this is where that fearsome inner editor can be challenged, that voice saying ‘no one wants to hear this’ can be silenced. Your experiences and emotions are valid and real and have every right to make it onto the page.

As for me, this led to the realization that I cannot have it both ways. Either I conform and shutter away a huge part of myself or I leave behind what I grew up believing and find a new way. I spent time analyzing my feelings and then looking at how it related to Séraphin’s situation.  This gave me what I needed to continue writing, which is the next step.

Step Three: Write it all out.

Sometimes this can be as difficult as part two. Writing is letting go, it’s a form of bloodletting, a draining of our psyche rather than our veins. It is scary and painful and glorious all at once. Let it be. Let yourself cry while you write out the pain. Let yourself shiver in your chair while you detail the fear. Grin from ear to ear as you relate the joy. Most of all feel.

I let Seraphin have his doubt, shame, and resentment. I let him feel what I felt and reach his own decision (I’m not giving that away, sorry).

So now a short story that suddenly became too personal has helped me deal with my own insecurities and has that much more emotional punch now. Honestly, every single story you write should have at least something like this in it. If you’re not passionate about your story, no matter what genre or length, readers notice.

 

 

Characters · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Writing a Healthy Romance

Romance novels often get blown off by the wider reading community (and especially the literary) as frivolous emotional porn (and sometimes actual porn) lacking any real substance or plot. This couldn’t be further from the truth. However, like all genres, romance does have some troublesome tropes. Some of these tropes are perpetuated in common advice heard throughout the romance community. Particularly when it comes to what constitutes a romance plot and what ‘needs’ to happen at certain points.

There has been some backlash recently against overtly abusive relationships portrayed in some books. So how can we avoid troublesome tropes and instead show a loving, healthy relationship in our romance?

First, what is a healthy relationship? This might seem like a very simple question, but many of us are never taught (even in our personal lives) what it means to be in a healthy relationship. Showing one in a conflict-riddled romance can be a challenge, but one I know you’re up to facing. These points might even give you entirely new ways to write your next story. Just remember these points are character-centric, not plot points. Your plot can and will affect how the relationship develops, but that doesn’t mean it has to be an unhealthy relationship.points for healthy Romance

Take Responsibility:

What this means is that your main character knows their happiness is their own responsibility. They aren’t looking for someone to ‘fulfill’ them or ‘make them whole.’ The idea of two lovers being separate parts of a whole is very unhealthy for both. It is one thing for a partner to have personality traits that complement or support each other. It is very different to completely rely on the other for their personal happiness. It creates an imbalance.

Understandably this is a big trope in romance: finding the one who ‘completes’ you as a person. It’s also fraught with issues. Putting someone in the position of being responsible for your happiness isn’t just unkind, it’s unloving. The moment they can’t emotionally, mentally or physically provide that happiness, what happens? Romanticizing that kind of relationship can potentially mislead our readers into thinking they either must find someone to fulfill this or do so themselves.

This doesn’t mean you cannot write this trope, but I strongly caution you to evaluate why you are doing so. Can’t your main character be happy on their own and still find joy in their relationship? Or perhaps they can find their own happiness with support from their lover? Possibilities abound.

Not A-Fixer-Upper:

We’ve all run across those stories where the love of the main character is all that it takes to make the love interest change and become law abiding, gentle, loving, what have you. Bullshit. Like, really. Total BULLSHIT. Unless the love interest is actively wanting to change and the main character is there to unconditionally support them (or vice versa), this is just … no. We humans are very stubborn and stuck in our ways, and any change undergone to gain someone’s love is often superficial at best and deceitful at worst. In a truly healthy relationship neither partner is going to seek to change the other. They like each other for who they already are. That’s what drew them to each other in the first place. They respect each other. Respect. Remember that word. It’s important.

Balance:

Jane just loved it when John would take her menu away and order for her. He always knew exactly what she wanted. It was so romantic.

Urk. ‘scuse me, had to gag.

Jane, I hate to break it to you but either you are a doormat, or John is overbearing and controlling and you need to hightail it. Even if John really did know exactly what Jane wanted, this relationship would still be unbalanced. And probably not only when it came to ordering food.

A healthy relationship is balanced when it comes to decision making (and yes that includes ordering food). When both partners truly respect (there it is again) each other they will discuss decisions. Respect also comes into play when each partner realizes the other might have more experience in certain areas. If John is a 5-star chef, he might be off the hook. Maybe. Even then he needs to respect Jane’s personal preferences. The ‘alpha’ male portrayal is often (not always) a thinly veiled abuser. Men who must dominate in a relationship aren’t being loving or respectful of their partner. This includes MOGAI relationships too.

If you find yourself writing a lot of these kinds of characters, women characters especially, this might be a sign of internalized misogyny.

Conflict Management:

Oh boy, there’s the big C. Conflict. Romance novels thrive on conflict and tension. But is it the right kind of conflict? Hang on. I’ll explain.

As writers, we understand that conflict is often (not always) the driving force of a plot. James Scott Bell in his book Conflict & Suspense on page 7, says that conflict is a “clash between at least two incompatible sides.” Too often in romance the ‘incompatible sides’ are the main character and the love interest. Which leads to conflict. Lots of conflict.

Conflict is natural in a relationship. However, it should be seen as a time to learn and grow. Too many times in romances a petty argument has both sides slamming doors and proclaiming the relationship over. This is not a healthy relationship. If each truly cared about and respected the other they would deal with their frustrations together. If the two are so incompatible as to constantly be in conflict then why are they even together?

A better method is to have the conflict come from outside the relationship. This allows them to grow together in a partnership as they work together to resolve it.

Show and Tell:

No, no. Not the showing and telling in your prose. Deep breaths. There you go. This showing and telling has to do with your characters and how open and honest they are with each other. Understandably, being open about certain things comes after a relationship has begun or is in it’s early stages. Being able to honestly communicate and respect each other’s feelings is one of the foundations of a healthy relationship. Repressing emotions isn’t healthy and only leads to later conflicts. Not the right kind of conflict either. Again, respect comes into play, on both sides.

This one is a bit mutable depending on your plot and characters, their personalities, where they are in their relationship and how much they trust each other. However, if they respect each other at all, they will be honest and open about their true feelings. They will also find responsible ways to express those feelings. Again, this may also depend on your plot and the characters’ personalities.

Self-Care

This is related to taking responsibility for their own happiness. In order to maintain a healthy relationship the partner must first take care of themselves mentally, emotionally and physically as far as they are able. This will allow them to be properly supportive of their partner.

Partnership

An established relationship should feel like a close partnership, with each individual taking into consideration their lover’s thoughts and feelings before making a decision. This means they need to talk openly about things that concern them and make room in their lives for the other person.

Obviously, plot wise it may seem like a good idea for one or the other to go galavanting off to save the day.  But this is a partnership. They’ve agreed together that they wish to be in each others lives. Could they not face the challenge together and further strengthen their relationship? If not, is there another way the partner left behind could show support or help? If you start looking, I’m certain you’ll find many ways to use this to your advantage.

Agree to Disagree

Your characters are people with their own opinions and beliefs. They aren’t going to agree on everything, and that’s just fine. If they did, it would be not only boring but either unrealistic or unbalanced.

This one is a little trickier because so many romance plots call for there to be something that drives the two lovers apart. Often times this is a disagreement over something, a closely held belief by one or the other, or ideas on how to proceed with a solution to the issue they are facing. Many times instead of talking to each other like adults, there is either no communication or spiteful arguing where one of them leaves until they are forced back together to finally confront the issue together. While this does increase the tension, it strains what could be a healthier relationship.

I challenge you to find alternate ways to introduce tension and reduce the amount of quarreling between the lovers.

Commitment

Your lovers are going to meet challenges. They have to, to test the strength of the relationship. If they are truly committed to each other, they will remain loyal and be ready to work through the challenges together.

Joy in the Other

Why did they choose each other? What is their real reason for wanting to be in the relationship? Is it for selfish reasons? Or only out of sexual attraction? Do they actually enjoy being with the other person? Why? What drew them together? What is keeping them together?

Every relationship is different, and will always have things both partners need to work on. No relationship will be perfect at each of these points, but by working at them together you’ll find yourself writing much healthier relationships that people can still identify with.

 

Now let’s look at how to incorporate this into the theory of 12 Key Romance Scenes as proposed by Michael Hauge.

 

  • The Ordinary World: Your main character in their element. Show who they are and that while they may have a ‘need’ they are secure without needing a partner to feel complete. (Again, not all characters will be able to do this. They might grow over the course of the novel to learn that they are whole within themselves but that doesn’t exclude loving their partner).
  • The Meet: Just what it says. Somewhere in the beginning they meet each other, and depending on your plot there may or may not be instant sparks of attraction. This is a good point to establish mutual respect at some level, even if it is an ‘enemies to lovers’ trope.
  • Reconsideration: Here, many writers (Mr. Hauge included) would advise you to show that the pair are incompatible for one reason or another, or have there be an openly negative response by one of the characters. Why? Let them enjoy meeting each other and want to get to know each other. This doesn’t mean things will be perfect right off the bat. You can always have plot elements that will keep them from being able to get together. It doesn’t have to be the relationship itself that is a source of contention
  • Wise Friend Counsels: Let’s make this Wise Friend Listens instead. Let your character know their own mind and make the decision for themselves. Too often women aren’t allowed to decide for themselves whether or not the relationship is for them. Their well-meaning friend will tell them why the man is ‘the one’ for them. This is often a sign of internalized misogyny on the author’s part, and needs to be very closely looked at before allowing it to stand in your story.
  • Acknowledge Interest: Your main character has realized they have deeper feelings than they thought.
  • First Quarrel: This can go several ways depending on your character’s personality, but use caution and remember that if they truly are invested in the relationship they will respect each other. This could be a good point to show that, and instead of pushing them apart it could draw them together as they talk through whatever is affecting their relationship.
  • The Dance: A lot of writers would advise you to show the relationship development, except it’s always on the fence whether or not the relationship will actually work. There is no set rule that says this must be the case. There are plenty of ways to create tension without that tension constantly being on the verge of tearing the relationship apart.
  • The Black Moment: The relationship is dead? What? Why? Instead of having something internal kill it, why not find some external reason that keeps them apart or makes the relationship impossible. If it is something internal it could be related to the character’s fatal flaw, something they have to overcome.
  • Reunited: Don’t fall for the ‘fated lovers’ trope. Let them come together willingly and because they WANT to be together, not because they were ‘meant’ for each other. There obviously will still be obstacles to overcome, but don’t force them together. Let them come back to each other organically.
  • Complications: This is where those obstacles really come into play. The outside forces aren’t about to let this stand for whatever reason.
  • Finally together: Now they can face their issues as a couple, showing that they have grown together and can face the problem head-on. Their respect for each other allows them to defeat the issue and move on to …

 

Happily Ever After: There is nothing wrong with allowing your characters their happy ending. With the issues this world is facing, people crave something positive and uplifting.

 

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asexual · Characters · Going Over the Rainbow · lgbt · mogai · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Going Over the Rainbow: The Asexuality Spectrum

GoingOver theRainbow (1)

For this month’s Going Over the Rainbow post we are going to look at one of the more misunderstood orientations—asexuality. I’ve broken this post up across two weeks because there are a lot of misconceptions as to what being asexual is and I want to address those before getting into actually writing an asexual character.

So what does it mean to be asexual? It varies by person but the simplest definition is a lack of sexual attraction. It is not the same as abstinence nor it is a mental illness. Asexual persons may not experience the desire to have sex with someone who they might otherwise find attractive or appealing, but that doesn’t always hold true either. Mostly because asexuality is, itself, a spectrum.

Asexual Spectrum

The asexual spectrum includes people who are completely repulsed by the thought of sex all the way to sex-positive individuals who may even enjoy sex with their partner. It’s a very personal thing for each asexual person and no one but them can tell you where they fall on the spectrum.

Many asexual persons will refer to a romantic orientation such as illustrated in the chart:

Romantic Attraction

Looking at the two charts combined you’ll see that there is a vast number of possible combinations. I personally identify as panromantic demisexual. What that means to me might not mean the exact same thing to someone else with the same chosen labels. For me personally, I am romantically attracted to people regardless of gender while I have only ever experienced sexual attraction twice in my entire life. To those who don’t know me I might appear to be a monogamous heterosexual. This is a misconception. Monogamy is a choice. My being sexually active with my partner doesn’t make me heterosexual, I am still asexual. I do not look at other people and find them sexually attractive. In fact trying to imagine sex with someone results in feelings of revulsion and panic. I quite literally cannot fathom it.

This doesn’t mean that asexuals can’t get turned on or don’t have a libido. Sexual attraction and libido are two separate things. You can experience sexual attraction yet have a low libido and there are people with a desire for sex that doesn’t relate to their orientation. There are asexuals who do engage in sex or who masturbate for a variety of reasons including but not limited to: pleasing a partner, releasing tension, to get to sleep or because they enjoy it. They are still asexual.

Asexuals also face unique issues within the community and recently there has been a call by some for them to be dropped from the LGBT community. Some asexuals feel that they would be better served by having their own separate community since the majority of the LGBT community is highly sex focused. This is an ongoing debate and will probably never be fully resolved.

It’s also good to keep in mind the kinds of challenges asexual face in our society. Sex is seen as normal, healthy and something that is integral to being human. Its even listed as a basic human need along with eating and breathing in Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needsmaslows_hierarchy_of_needs. Which any asexual will tell you is preposterous. No one has ever died because of a lack of sex. Lack of love, yes. But love is not sex. Sex can be an expression of love and intimacy but the act itself can be done for reasons outside of love. But, because of this view of sex and sexuality many asexuals report feeling broken or being seen as not wholly human by many, even being referred to as robots or plants or just being flat denied as existing. Acephobia is very common and often goes unrecognized and unchallenged.

Asexuals face being infantilized, fetishized as virginal, excluded by the LGBT community, labeled as mentally ill, and generally dismissed by society at large. These are all things your character might face as well. Don’t shy away from addressing these issues if your plot allows for it.

Next week we will delve deeper into how to actually go about writing an asexual character.

Asexual Orientation

The Thinking Asexual

Privileges Sexual People Have

Asexual Erasure and Mental Health

No Sex Please, I’m Asexual

If you enjoyed this post and would like access to exclusive content please consider supporting me on Patreon.

 

 

 

Characters · Going Over the Rainbow · lgbt · mogai · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Going Over the Rainbow: There is No Fast Lane

GoingOver theRainbow (1)

After last week’s post I had some people asking me to explain the concept of aromanticism further. If after reading the post and the included links you are still feeling a bit confused or unsure, don’t worry there isn’t anything wrong with you. Unfortunately, it is a subject much like gender; you only truly ‘get it’ if you experience it. Which is why I’m writing this week’s post on a slightly different subject; knowing when a story is not yours to write.

warning-general-2

This post is going to frankly discuss sensitive subjects that some might find triggering. Please read with caution.

I’ve discussed many personal things on this blog in the hopes of helping others gain insight to how some of us interact with the world around us. It is my sincere hope that these posts are not only informative and entertaining, but that they help you gain a greater understanding of your characters and more importantly; people who you might meet in your life.

However, there will sometimes be things that simply cannot be explained, they must be experienced to be understood. Even as a queer individual, I know that my experience is different than others. There are some orientations and gender identities I cannot comprehend because my brain is not wired that way (I don’t understand gender itself on my best days which is why I’m nonbinary). What I’m encouraging you to do is; be willing to learn about others but if something doesn’t click, don’t get frustrated. We can still try to be understanding and open-minded. But how do we know if we are straying into someone else’s lane?

Staying in Your Lane

Writers love to learn, but some things cannot be learned they must be experienced. I could tell you about my experiences growing up as a queer and gender confused child but unless you have experienced the dissociation, frustration, loneliness, and heartbreak of feeling othered by family and friends alike, there is little I can do to fully impart the knowledge. You might be able to empathize but true comprehension isn’t something I’d actually wish on anyone. This could make writing a character with a background like mine challenging for you. We all get lonely, frustrated and heartbroken but my cause for those feelings might be something incomprehensible for you. And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is writers who assume they understand and proceed to write characters who they think I should be like. Characters ‘triumphing’ over their queerness or being miraculously cured of their mental illness when Mx. Right comes along.

Jami Gold mentioned this last year in her post Shining a Light on Diversity and also in her post One Step to Better Writing and More Diversity. In both articles she mentions not defaulting to stock characters to fill perceived quotas to make our stories seem more diverse. Though as she says in Shining a Light on Diversity; even doing our research and having diverse beta readers and other help might not be enough.

In short it might not be our story to tell at all.w20_7b_be_prepared_to_stop

But how can we know if the story we want to tell is something we can do with good indepth research and interviews or if it would be best left to an author of that particular background?  There are plenty of blogs out there telling you how to write with diversity. The push for diversity is very much needed and should be actively sought and encouraged. However unlike some other bloggers I am going to tell you right now: Not every story is yours to tell. I’m sorry for being blunt but it is the truth. We must learn to check our priviledge and to stay in our lane to avoid traffic.

What does ‘check your priviledge’ mean?

Simply put, this means that we may, unknowingly, have certain advantages over others. And this is only because there are aspects of our identity that society values over others.

When someone asks you to ‘check your priviledge,’ what they’re really asking you to do is reflect on the ways that your social status might have given you an advantage—even if you didn’t ask for it or earn it—while their social status might have given them a disadvantage. (http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/07/what-checking-privilege-means)

So how do we know if we are in the correct lane? Let’s look at a few questions we can ask ourselves.

NOTE: For this I’ll be focusing on the gender and sexual identity portion. As a white person it is not my place to comment on racial issues faced by minorities. For help with racial diversity I highly recommend Writing With Color which is maintained by several people of diverse racial backgrounds.

  • Do I have a personal understanding of what this character might be facing? Can I truly sympathize with them or do I find it difficult to understand where they are coming from.
  • Do I find myself defaulting to stereotypical actions becasue I don’t fully undersand or comprehend how they might act/react in certain situations?
  • Am I struggling with the basic definition of their orientation or gender identity? Do I find it difficult to understand their viewpoint or do I find myself making excuses to write them the way I feel their orientation/gender identity should be represented?
  • Is the major part of their character arc about their race, gender identity, sexuality or mental helath? If so, do I share their experiences or can my experiences contribute to my characterization of them? If not, will research and interviews be adequate for their chararcterization?
  • Will my writing this character ‘talk over’ a writer from a diverse background? If I am not sure, have I asked someone of that background?
  • Am I being honest with myself about why I am writing this character and have I truly put aside any preconcieved notions or assumptions?
  • Is the story’s focus on their struggle with their race, gender identity, sexual orientation or mental health? If it is, do I identify as part of that diverse group? If I don’t, why do I feel the need to write about it? Do I feel as though I need to write this character to make a point? What point am I trying to make and why?
  • Have I read similar characters written by a writer from a diverse background? If not why do I feel qualified to write this character? Has a minority writer already written a similar story? Would I better serve my readers by promoting that author?

If we go through and candidly answer these questions we might find ourselves a little uncomfortable with the answers. It’s alright. This is your conscience telling you that you might be straying out of your lane.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to write someone different from ourselves, I wholeheartedly encourage it, the caution comes when we realize we cannot fully grasp the character’s situation or that our motivations for writing the character might be misplaced.

There is nothing to be ashamed of if this is the case. It just means that we should look for other ways to write this particular character or show our writerly humility and not write the character at all. This is why I rarely write traditional heterosexual romance and erotica. I don’t understand it.

I’ll be quite honest, when I read a romance that has the heroine gladly jumping in bed with the hero a short time after meeting him, I’m very put off. I cannot comprehend being able to have sex with someone within minutes of meeting them. I find the thought repulsive, but that is for me personally and I understand other people think very differently. They might find my lack of romantic and sexual attraction equally confusing and disturbing.

The wonderful thing about writing is that we all have stories to tell. No one can write like you or from your viewpoint and world experience. Don’t feel limited by that though. Please do read, research, explore, learn, and write with diversity. Just please also remember that even though your lane might not be wide, it’s just as long as you want to make it and don’t be afraid to let it intersect with other lanes. Just make certain you stop to check your priviledge first.

Going Over the Rainbow: Crush Those Stereotypes

Characters · Going Over the Rainbow · lgbt · mogai · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Going Over the Rainbow: Aromantic

When Romance is Not an Option

I was having a hard time deciding where to start, so I thought I’d just do this alphabetically. ^^ I personally am between pan and aro when it comes to romantic orientation. I don’t claim to understand everything about either, and my experiences will vary widely from other aromantics.

Aromanticism is:

not experiencing romantic attraction.

Aromanticism is not:  

a personal choice or lack of emotional connection.

Definition (From AVEN Wiki): An aromantic is a person who experiences lAromanticittle or no romantic attraction to others. Where romantic people have an emotional need to be with another person in a romantic relationship, aromantics are often satisfied with friendships and other non-romantic relationships. What distinguishes romantic relationships from a non-romantic relationships can vary diversely, but often includes physical connection (holding hands, cuddling, etc.) (Italics mine).The aromantic attribute is usually considered to be innate and not a personal choice, just as the lack of sexual attraction is innate to asexuals. It is important to note that aromantics do not lack emotional/personal connection, but simply have no instinctual need to develop connections of a romantic nature. Aromantics can have needs for just as much empathetic support as romantics, but these needs can be fulfilled in a platonic way.

It is possible for an aromantic individual to be involved in, and enjoy, a devoted relationship with another person, but these relations are often closer friendships, naturally reflecting the closeness of the two individuals and not a purposely initiated monogamous separation as is often found in romantic couples. Aromantics may experience squishes which are the aromantic or platonic equivalent of a romantic crush. When an aromatic get’s into a relationship that’s more than friends – but less than romantic – that is known as a queerplatonic relationship.

Like all romantic identities aromatics can be of any sexual orientation.

Writing the Aromantic Character

The first thing to remember when writing an aromantic character is that being aromantic does not mean incapable of love, affection or sexual intimacy. It simply means they do not experience romantic attraction. They have friends and other relationships but not with a goal of a romance. (http://www.buzzfeed.com/mcrosswell/5-myths-about-aromanticism-tysc#.lvwnEXPxq)

Romantic Orientation – Describes an individual’s pattern of romantic attraction based on a person’s gender(s) regardless of one’s sexual orientation. For individuals who experience sexual attraction, their sexual orientation and romantic orientation are often in alignment (i.e. they experience sexual attraction toward individuals of the same gender(s) as the individuals they are interested in forming romantic relationships with). (AVEN Wiki).

As when writing any character, you need to ask yourself several questions:

  • Have I given them other meaningful, close relationships?
  • Have I fallen into the stereotype of the aromantic asexual as an unfeeling, friendless, virginal robot who hates everyone? Not all aromantic people are asexual.
  • Do I fully understand what it means to be aromantic? Is this my story to tell?
  • Have I tried to ‘fix’ the character’s or tried to show them suddenly being romantic when they find the ‘right’ person?
  • What are my reasons for having this character be aromantic? Have I made them a whole person or is their orientation their primary characteristic? Am I trying to fill a perceived quota?
  • Have I made the character aromantic due to mental illness, trauma, personal failing or some outside factor? If so, why and how does it serve the plot?
  • Have I made this character’s orientation the comedic relief?

Now some questions for your aromantic character:

  • Do they realize they are aromantic? How do they feel about this? Do they wish they were ‘normal’ or are they content with their orientation? Do they try to force themselves into romantic relationships? What are the consequences?
  • When did they discover their orientation? Was it a gradual understanding that took years. Are they still a teen and trying to come to grips with how different they might seem from all their peers?
  • Who else knows about their orientation or have they told anyone? If so, who and why or why not? How did those they told react? How did they handle this reaction?
  • How has their orientation affected their other relationships?
  • Do they want a close platonic or even sexual relationship?
  • Does their orientation intersect with other things such as gender identity, race, physical disability, mental illness, or other factors? How do they handle this intersectionality?

Once you’ve addressed these questions, it is important to remember that you are writing a person. A whole person not just an orientation. While a person’s orientation is integral to who they are and defines them up to a point it shouldn’t be the sole basis for their personality. This can lead to falling into the trope trap. While tropes themselves are not bad some can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Aromantics are seldom, if ever, seen in media so there are very few tropes about them, though many of the asexual tropes can apply as well.

Don’t shy away from writing them just because they are rare. They are part of the spectrum and need to be favorably represented so that other aromantics can read their stories and see that they are not broken, ‘messed up,’ or ‘weird.’ They are normal people who just happen to not be interested in romance. This might feel like a challenge at first and if you are romantically inclined it might be difficult to comprehend. It’s okay. Their story might not be yours to write and that’s fine. But don’t let that scare you off from including their orientation in your stories. If anything the research can help you, as it has me, come to a better understanding of others and to have greater empathy.

Here are some more references I found helpful that I’d like to share with you:

Aromantic – AVENwiki

5 Myths About Aromanticism – BuzzFeed

ASK AN AROMANTIC (if asking questions please remember to be courteous and not assume things)

Anagnori : You might be aromantic if…

Resources for Aromantic Sexual People | The Thinking Aro

Asexual Romances Are Necessary

Going Over the Rainbow: Like a Moth to a Flame

Going Over the Rainbow: The Trope Trap

Going Over the Rainbow: Crush Those Stereotypes

Please share your thoughts with me. Were you aware of the aromantic orientation? Have you met an aromantic person? Would you consider including one in a story? What challenges do you think aromantics face in our society? How might this affect their portrayal in media? Do you know of any canon aromantic characters in a book, movie or game? 

If you enjoyed this post and would like access to exclusive content please consider supporting me on Patreon.

asexual · Characters · Going Over the Rainbow · lgbt · mogai · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Going Over the Rainbow: Like a Moth to a Flame

 

GoingOver theRainbow (1)

This week has been chaotic at best and I apologize for the lateness of this article.

As writers who write living beings at some point our characters will probably experience attraction to another being and desire a relationship. But what kind?

Romantic relationships often seem to be the default in books and movies. Hero A must get with their OoD (object of desire) by the end of Act 3 or your story is a flop. The default romance has become such a staple of mainstream media that to not have it can make it feel as though your story is missing something. So is it?

No not really. Ever watched a show with a really great partnership/friendship. Those are relation(ship)s too. Just with a different kind of attraction. Mad Max: Fury Road was a great example of this. Max and Furiosa’s relationship is not one of sexual attraction at all. Even Capable and Nux don’t have a blatantly romantic relationship. Theirs is based more on shared comfort in a society that sees both of them as disposable objects.

So what kind of relationship did they have if it wasn’t a romantic one?

Yes, you’re on the right track. There are several different forms of attraction (and love but that’s for later). Don’t forget though, romantic attraction does not equal sexual attraction for everyone. Your character can be romantically attracted to someone without wanting to engage in sex.

Let’s look at what this means.

Sexual attraction is what people feel when they look at someone and their first thought is something along the lines of “I want to jump their bones” or “How do I get in those pants.” It’s a response to finding someone physically appealing. Think lust.

 

Marketing companies bank (literally) on our being sexually titillated to sell things. Sex sells, right?

Not always.herehaveanothersexyburgerpic_4f15384461b9daf422986fc8509e164c

(Personally, I have no idea what is appealing about this picture but it came up when I looked up sex in advertising.)

So if there are other kinds of attraction, like my attraction to that burger, what are they? Why do we as writers need to be aware of them and how can we be more diverse by writing characters with different attraction orientations?

Just as there are different sexual orientations, there are different romantic orientations. Just as there are asexual persons, there are aromantic persons. I consider myself panromantic with heavy aromantic leanings. Meaning: while my romantic attraction is not defined by gender I am less likely to engage in anything traditionally romantic or be romantically attracted to anyone regardless of gender. It does not mean that I don’t—or am not capable—of love. Remember earlier? Love and romance are not the same thing. It is entirely possible to love people without being romantically attracted to them.

There are many different types of attraction, including:

Sexual attraction: attraction that makes people desire sexual contact or shows sexual interest in another person(s).

 

Romantic attraction: attraction that makes people desire romantic contact or interaction with another person or persons.

 

Aesthetic attraction: occurs when someone appreciates the appearance or beauty of another person(s), disconnected from sexual or romantic attraction.

 

Sensual attraction: the desire to interact with others in a tactile, non-sexual way, such as through hugging or cuddling.

 

Emotional attraction: the desire to get to know someone, often as a result of their personality instead of their physicality. This type of attraction is present in most relationships from platonic friendships to romantic and sexual relationships.

 

Intellectual attraction: the desire to engage with another in an intellectual manner, such as engaging in conversation with them, “picking their brain,” and it has more to do with what or how a person thinks instead of the person themselves.

(https://lgbtq.unc.edu/asexuality-attraction-and-romantic-orientation)

maleficent-auroraMaleficent (2014) is an excellent example of True Love™. In the movie it was not the Prince’s kiss that could break the spell. Only Maleficent herself could do that. It was the fact that Maleficent was the only person who Aurora truly loved that allowed her to break the spell. This is platonic love.

This is the kind of attraction between characters who are very close friends. I’m pretty certain you don’t have any problems writing friendships.

Sensual and sexual attraction are much more common than aesthetic attraction in books and movies. Women in close, non-sexual, relationships are often shown as being sensually attracted to each other since cuddling, snuggling, hugging and holding hands are seen as more feminine type behaviors. Don’t be afraid to break stereotypes or expectations. Men can initiate cuddling, hand holding and other forms of non-sexual intimacies.

Knowing these various types of attraction can help us as writers be more diverse with our characters and their relationships. Hero A might not find the Hero B sexually attractive, but could be aesthetically attracted to them. Or Hero B might find Sidekick C sensually attractive and want to cuddle and watch Netflix with them.

Don’t be afraid to allow your characters other close relationships even if a romance is the primary focus of the plot. This will help round out all of your characters.

Next time we’ll dive into the various types of romantic orientations and how to write them.

If you enjoyed this post and would like access to exclusive content please consider supporting me on Patreon.

 

Books · Characters · gay romance · Going Over the Rainbow · lgbt · mogai · Movies · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Going Over the Rainbow: The Trope Trap

tumblr_o1a4is0yup1upq7vno1_1280

 

All joking aside, accountability is something that professionals of any discipline face. Even us writers.

Yes, you read that right. You, my dear writer, are accountable to your reader. Well yes, you say, I should give them the best story I can write.

Yes you should, but it goes beyond that too. If you’ve written for long you’ve probably ended up having to do some research into an unfamiliar topic. We often joke about hoping the government isn’t keeping too close an eye on our internet research history. There are many resources available online to help us flesh out our characters and our setting. One Stop For Writers is a great example. However, while we might research settings, the job our character has and where they live; sometimes we forget that other things need research too.

Jami Gold had several excellent articles about writing with diversity and the research that goes along with it.

Ask if the Story Is Ours to Tell: If we don’t have direct experience with the diverse element, a story that centers on the diverse aspect might suffer from disrespectful negative stereotypes or breathless, isn’t-it-inspirational-how-they-overcame-those-obstacles “positive” stereotypes. (Note that treating a character’s diverse element as a problem to overcome isn’t actually positive.) — Jami Gold

Sometimes when we are writing a character, even when we’ve done research, we might find ourselves slipping into stereotypes or tropes. They are like clichés. They are comfortable and familiar. Unlike clichés they can be damaging and perpetuate some very harmful thinking.

We can usually spot harmful racial stereotypes. I wrote about avoiding stereotypes in a previous post. I still recommend WritingWithColor, DiversityCrossCheck and betas to help with racial/cultural sensitivity. But tropes aren’t always stereotypes, so how do we know if we are falling into the trope trap?

Trumping the Tropes

There are a LOT of tropes out there. And they are not all bad, most exist for a reason and like popular themes don’t have to be eschewed completely and can even be used to good effect. Over the course of this series I will be addressing various tropes and how they relate to the identity or orientation I’m discussing. In case you are curious as to how many there are TV Tropes Queer as Tropes page is a good place to start.

One of the most prevalent tropes is Bury Your Gays. Queer persons never get happy endings. Ever. Often they die.

Or, more recently, they are the villain.

This doesn’t mean that your queer character has to survive and not be evil. However, it does mean that you need to be very careful about how you approach each of those circumstances. Just as careful as you’d be about casting a black man as a street thug.

Tropes at their most basic are indeed stereotypes and thus need to be very carefully considered. Many common romance themes are tropes in disguise.

  • Stereotypes: Not literary. We avoid using this term to talk about classifying characters, settings, plot points, etc..
  • Archetypes: The broad, all-encompassing norms of the stories humanity tells. The same archetypes can be found in all or nearly all cultures.
  • Tropes: Culturally-specific norms in storytelling. Tropes are cultural classifications of archetypes. There can be many tropes found under the umbrella of one archetype. Literary devices are not tropes (i.e. narrators, foreshadowing, flashbacks, etc.).
  • Clichés: Overused and hackneyed phrases, characters, settings, plot points, etc.. Archetypes do not become clichéd. Tropes can become clichés if they are used too often and readers get bored of them. Clichés are defined by a loss of the meaning or as a distraction from the story.

Definition list from WriteWorld.org.

If we find ourselves falling back on common tropes a lot in our writing5 Questions to Ask Yourself (1), we might need to ask ourselves why. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using tropes but we need to make sure we are giving them our own special treatment. This is easily done by combining two or more tropes or even subverting or flipping them.

Let’s look at some examples:

All Gays Are Promiscuous trope is the stereotype that a gay man is completely driven by lust and must therefore have sex all the time.

Game of Thrones: Downplayed by Ser Loras Tyrell; he is rather easily seduced by an attractive male prostitute, and exchanges significant glances with the openly bisexual Oberyn Martell not long after his lover Renly Baratheon is killed. He mostly comes across as this in comparison to his literary incarnation, who falls into a deep depression after Renly’s death, is apparently celibate, and shows signs of being a Death Seeker.

Wallace Wells, Scott Pilgrim‘s cool gay roommate, is characterized with this trope, even going so far as to hang a lampshade it when chastising Scott for infidelity.

Scott: Double standard!
Wallace: Hey, I didn’t make the gay rules. If you don’t like it, take it up with Liberace’s ghost!
Are there gay men who like to sleep around? Yes, or course, just as there are lesbians, bi-sexuals, pansexuals and straight people who do the same. But the issue comes when we perpetuate it as a defining trait of being gay. This trope is very easily subverted by letting our gay character be in a committed relationship that is not centered on sexual gratification. After all that’s the kind of relationships many of us have and enjoy.
So, do you see how a trope can be trouble? But why should you care?

Jumping the Shark

movie-poster-jaws

The blockbuster movie Jaws launched a national campaign against the ‘man eaters’ and contributed to the drastic decline in the shark population. To this day, the stereotype against sharks persists.

The film’s key mistake was portraying great white sharks as vengeful predators that could remember specific human beings and go after them to settle a grudge. — How ‘Jaws’ Forever Changed Our View of Great White Sharks by Charles Q. Choi

This is just one example of how harmful a negative portrayal in our work can be on others. This is why I wanted to address the issue of accountability with you and how it relates to using tropes.

As authors we enjoy the privilege of having readers accept our words at face value (for the most part). People trust us. What we show them in our fiction, no matter what we write— paranormal, romance, thriller, mystery, literary, et cetera—has an impact on their thinking and their perception of the world around them. This is why we have to be so careful about stereotypical or negatively portrayed characters from marginalized identities/orientations/races/cultures.

This is why I say we are accountable. Our words have power. The power to create understanding and empathy or further the divide. This is why research from valid sources is so important and why we must recognize our own tendency toward common tropes and stereotypes when writing.


 

Now that I’ve got most of the preliminary issues out of the way, it’s time to start delving into the various gender identities and sexual orientations. As we move forward, I’d like to encourage you to refer back to these posts and keep these things in mind.

What are your thoughts on author accountability? Have you ever come across a negative portrayal that affected you personally? Have you read any books where certain characters were walking stereotypes? Do you have any other comments or questions for me?

If you enjoyed this post and would like access to exclusive content please consider supporting me on Patreon.

Characters · Going Over the Rainbow · lgbt · mogai · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Going Over the Rainbow: Show and Tell

I recently ran across a post on Tumblr where the OP was rather distraught. They’d been told that using the word asexual to describe their character’s orientation was historically inaccurate for their setting.

This brought up the issue of explicitly stating a character’s orientation within the prose and when and how this should be done. Some writers might feel that they’d rather not label their characters and let their readers decide the character’s orientation. However, I caution against this.

El at Just Love Romance recently brought out how many romance novels feature asexual and demisexual characters yet this is rarely explicitly stated for the reader. Often in movies and television a character’s sexuality is left vague and for the viewer to guess. This can lead to what is called queer-baiting and is a huge source of frustration within the community.

I’m here to help you avoid this problem no matter what genre you write.

Transparency in Prose

The best way to let your reader know a character’s orientation is to tell them. Let your character state their identity. Be explicit. If your character is questioning or unsure, let them talk about it to other (hopefully queer) characters. Don’t be afraid to show them being unsure or looking for answers. You don’t have to be writing a coming-out story to allow a character to realize who they are.

Okay … don’t look at me like that. I know what you are thinking. It doesn’t fit in the narrative, they are a secondary character, the terms are too modern for my setting, I’m afraid of reader backlash, I don’t even know how they identify, blah, blah, blah.  Sorry, I’m not letting you off the hook on this one. No excuses.

Subtext is not enough. Readers want context. Which means you, my dear writer, have to be transparent when it comes to your character’s sexuality. It must be stated and shown for the reader.

But how?

Please allow me to show you.

Show and Tell

This is one of those times you can throw aside the advice to ‘show don’t tell.’ However, there are ways to show your character’s orientation. The graphic below lists the main ways to do this. As with any other characterization details there are a number of ways to get the information across to your reader.

Dialog

This is one of the easier ways to show the reader a character’s orientation. It doesn’t have to be a pages of discussion, it can be just a line or two of dialog. As long as it is clearly stated by someone. Here is an example:

Maggie stared at the curvy young woman behind the counter. A bump to her hip jolted her to the side. She glanced over to see her friend grinning at her.

“Come on Maggie, either ask her out or stop leering.”Ways to Show and Tell A character's Orientation

“I … uh,” Maggie blinked rapidly as her brain went on autopilot. “She’s probably not even interested in women.”

Okay let’s stop right there. ‘Interested in women’ could mean lesbian, bisexual, or pansexual. So let’s try this:

“I … uh,” Maggie blinked rapidly as her brain went on autopilot. “She’s probably not even a lesbian.”

“Actually I’m pan,” The woman smiled showing two cute dimples.

Simple, right?

Action

Another way to show it is by your character’s actions around those they find attractive. This works nicely if it’s difficult to work the terms into dialog or you want to add extra reassurance for the reader. This is like any other scene that shows characterization, it just deals with your character’s sexual orientation. Again there is no reason to spend multiple paragraphs, get the information out there and let the reader do the rest. If you’re unsure how to show attraction check out One Stop For Writers Emotion Thesaurus. There are several entries to help you show emotional attachment. And don’t forget there are plenty of non-sexual intimacies that can show your character being attracted to or in love with someone.

Internal Dialog

This is an often under-utilized tool for characterization. You are allowed to let your character think about things, dwell on them, process them. This helps your reader too. If you feel dialog or action isn’t appropriate for your character to express their orientation then this might be a good alternative. Of course balance is needed as with all plot and characterization tools.

External Circumstances

What I mean by external circumstances is that it is not the character in question who tells/shows the reader what their orientation is. It could be anther character discussing them or something that happens in the larger world around them. Something as simple as another character stating “X is asexual, they might be uncomfortable watching this movie” or you can even tell your reader as the following paragraph demostrates.

Alice talked to Bert about her feelings for Charlie. Bert informed her that Charlie’s asexual, so whilst he might be open to a romantic relationship, he’d not be likely to respond to sexual flirting. Maybe she should try another tactic to get Charlie’s attention.

Not fantastic but you get the idea. But what if you write historical fiction, fantasy or science fiction? Can you still use the modern terms?

Absolutely.

Here are a few quick, easy ways to do so.

Bran Lindy Ayres (1)

 

What are your thoughts on this? How would you approach revealing a character’s orientation? Have you read any books where you weren’t sure of a character’s orientation? 

If you enjoyed this post and would like access to exclusive content please consider supporting me on Patreon.

 

 

Characters · gay romance · lgbt · mogai · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Going Over the Rainbow: Crush Those Stereotypes

Get rid of stereotypical characters as easily as Dorothy got rid of the Wicked Witch of the East.

There is a lot of great advice out there when it comes to creating our characters. From Nancy Kress’ Dynamic Characters to The Positive and Negative Trait Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi there are many excellent resources for writers looking to create truly unique and realistic characters.  Even as comprehensive as these helps are, there is one area many writers neglect.

A character’s sexuality and sexual orientation.

‘But I don’t write romance!’ I hear you saying. Romance isn’t always about sex and sex isn’t always about romance.  A character’s sexual orientation can have a huge impact on how they are treated by society, their family, how they interact with others around them and how they perceive themselves. It can be a source of both internal and external conflict.

‘But I only write straight characters!’ You say.  Okay, nothing wrong with that, but why? Why only write straight characters?  It’s almost guaranteed that you personally know, at the very least, one person of a different orientation and the likelihood is that the number is much higher. Our lives are filled with diversity and it stands to reason that our stories should be as well.

Diversity is a huge buzz word right now in the entertainment industry and while there is a great focus on it, the actual results have been marginal at best. Unfortunately some well-meaning writers have perpetuated harmful stereotypes, misrepresented an orientation or been less than accurate in their portrayals of queer* persons.

So how can you add diversity and be inclusive without stumbling into the stereotype trap?

Click your heels and we’re on our way.

The first step is to realize writing diversity is not hard. Writing a queer character is no harder than writing any other character because, first and foremost, you are writing people; not an orientation.  A lesbian is not just a lesbian, she might also be a sister, mother, accountant, scientist, police officer, volunteer firefighter or any number of things that make up someone’s identity. Her orientation is just one aspect of who she is, but it is something that helps define her, just as core traits help define personality.

Fearless Defenders #12

The second step is to decide if the character’s story is one for you to tell. As I stated last week, some stories need to be told by writers from that particular background. We should recognize when a character’s story might not be ours to tell, especially if the story centers on experiences or hardships related to their race, orientation, physical ability or mental health.  As the term goes, stay in your lane. In other words know when to check your privilege and don’t assume any amount of research is going to give you true insight into their struggles. Instead, support authors who are part of those diverse backgrounds.

Kaidan Alenko is a romanceable option for Commander Shepard in Mass Effect 3

With that being said, there is nothing wrong with including diverse characters. You absolutely should.

The final step in writing with diversity is actually creating a character that is a fair representation. Everyone’s experiences are going to be different and there is no one right way to write a queer character. However, there are most definitely wrong ways to write them.

Over the next several months I will be going through both the sexual orientation spectrum and the gender identity spectrum and helping you to avoid stereotypes and harmful misinformation. My goal is to help you not only understand your characters better but to feel more comfortable writing with diversity. I myself am a queer person. I identify as an agender/nonbinary panromantic demisexual. That’s probably is a bunch of gibberish right now, but I promise, if you stick with me I’ll show you what those labels mean and what they can mean for your character.

The first place we are going to start with is the Character Sexuality Worksheet. I designed this worksheet to help you answer orientation specific questions about your character. This should give you a launching point for your research. I’ve also included two handy flowcharts to help in case you are not sure where on the spectrum your character might fall.

Character Sexuality Worksheet

Please feel free to download and print the worksheet for your private use.

Over the next several months I will be exploring each of the various sexual orientations and gender identities in an effort to help my fellow authors write with more diversity. I will be inviting people of other orientations and gender identities to offer their advice and experiences as well. I sincerely hope you find this of value and please feel free to ask questions.

If you enjoyed this and would like access to additional content, please consider supporting me on Patreon

What orientation you are most curious about? What else would you like know about sexuality, sexual orientation, and gender identity? Have you written a character from the sexual orientation spectrum?  What challenges have you encountered in your effort to add diversity to your writing? Do you have any suggestions or comments for the worksheet or upcoming topics? I look forward to hearing from you.

*As someone who identifies as nonbinary and panromantic demisxual, I am comfortable using the term queer when describing myself or my characters. I am aware that many in the community still feel this is an insult. If you do not identify as part of the spectrum, please refrain from using the term.

Characters · gay romance · lgbt · mogai · writing · Writing FUNdamentals

Going Over the Rainbow: Moving Beyond the LG in LGBT.

Growing up in small towns in the middle of the Midwest, I didn’t get much exposure to people of other races.  There was not a single African American at the school I went to and only one person of mixed race.  I also had no exposure to people who identified as different sexual orientations or gender identities. This meant I felt horribly out of place growing up. I was just weird. It’s taken twenty years, but I’ve finally found where I fit and understand myself. I’ve also learned a lot about others along the way.

Last month Jami Gold brought up the subject of diversity on her blog.  Diversity is a huge topic right now, and it should be. We need more diversity in every genre.  And by diversity I don’t just mean racially, but sexual orientation, gender identity, neurodivergence, physical ability, all of it. However, we need to when and how to add it so it fits and doesn’t feel tacked on. There is no quota, only authenticity.

This is a good thing when it comes to our characters, especially for characters with diverse elements, as there’s no definitive black, gay, disabled, whatever experience, and therefore there’s no “one right way” to portray those characters. There are, however, wrong ways to portray diversity.—Jami Gold, Writing Diversity: How Can We Avoid Issues?

In a follow up post, Jami also touched on research and being aware of the source of our information. There are plenty of resources on the internet but we need to be aware of who is supplying them and if they are actually part of the segment of the population they are writing about. This can make all the difference in whether or not our portrayal is authentic or othering.

Some stories simply are not ours to write.

Obviously, the most helpful thing we can do to support diversity within the publishing industry is to buy and help promote books from diverse authors. As I mentioned last time, there might be some stories that aren’t ours to tell, so we also need to encourage the success of those authors who can tell those stories.—Jami Gold, Digging into Research: Consider the Source

I write stories with queer* characters and yes many of them are not white, but their race and queerness is part of who they are and the stories are not about either. As a white person it is not my place to write a story about race or racism. It might happen in my stories, but it won’t be the focus because I have never had to deal with it the way so many others do. I cannot and will not write something when I know it is a subject that does not belong to me. No amount of creativity can replace experience with something like this.

And that leads me to the point of this post.  As a queer person I have noticed a lot of authors struggling to write authentically queer characters. The gay romance genre is stuck in the m/m cis white male, coming out trope (not that there is anything wrong with the trope, but … diversity would be nice ^^). That is only one small part of the entire spectrum. The rainbow flag is not the only flag out there. Whether you write romance or not, adding other orientations can only enrich your writing. When done properly.

Pride Flag Collage

Over the next several months I will be exploring each of the various sexual orientations and gender identities in an effort to help my fellow authors write with more diversity. I will be inviting people of other orientations and gender identities to offer their advice and experiences as well. I sincerely hope you find this of value and please feel free to ask questions.

If you enjoyed this and would like access to additional content, please consider supporting me on Patreon

As always your comments and questions are welcomed below. 

*As someone who identifies as nonbinary and panromantic demisxual, I am comfortable using the term queer when describing myself or my characters. I am aware that many in the community still feel this is an insult. If you do not identify as part of the spectrum, please refrain from using the term.